Diary of Williams College professor who probed Adolf Hitler’s looted art collection to be unveiled

Boston Globe 26 April 2019
By Emily Sweeney

The National Archives plans to hold a press conference Monday to unveil the personal diary of S. Lane Faison Jr., a highly respected Williams College professor and art historian who documented Adolf Hitler’s looted art collection.

The diary was donated by the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, a nonprofit that was created to honor the legacy of those who protected monuments and other cultural treasures during World War II, officials said in a press release.

Among those scheduled to attend the press conference is Robert M. Edsel, who started the foundation and wrote “The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History,” a book that was later adapted into a movie starring George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Bill Murray.

Faison was something of a legend at Williams College, where he taught for 40 years. After graduating from Williams in 1929, he earned a master of arts degree from Harvard in 1930 and a master of fine arts from Princeton in 1932. He later returned to Williams as a professor in 1936 and went on to become chairman of the art department and director of Williams College Museum of Art, according to his biography on the foundation’s website.

Faison enlisted in the Navy in 1942 and later joined the Office of Strategic Services and was assigned to the Art Looting Investigation Unit. From June 1945 until the spring of 1946, Faison and his colleagues “detained and interrogated hundreds of Nazi officials and collaborators on the whereabouts of looted works of art,” his biography states. “The resulting intelligence . . . greatly expedited the restitution process for millions of looted works of art and cultural objects.”

Faison also wrote the official report on Adolf Hitler’s looted art collection, according to the foundation’s website. In his final report to the OSS, he wrote, “Looting always accompanies war; but Nazi looting, and especially Nazi art looting, was different. It was officially planned and expertly carried out. Looted art gave tone to an otherwise bare New Order.”

From 1950 to 1951, Faison served as director of the Central Collecting Point in Munich, where he oversaw the return of stolen artwork. The diary documents his time in that position, officials said in the press release.
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